Accusations of press agendas enter Israeli election campaign


Focus turned to the role of the media in Israel’s election campaign following Prime Minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s unusually strong personal criticism of the publisher of a critical newspaper.

Writing on Facebook yesterday, Mr Netanyahu accused Noni Mozes, publisher of daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot, of attempting to “overthrow” the Likud government as part of its commercial struggle with the Netanyahu-supporting freesheet Israel Hayom. Israel Hayom is owned by Sheldon Adelson, one of Mr Netanyahu’s biggest supporters.

“The main source behind the wave of slander against me and against my wife is Noni Mozes, the publisher of Yediot Ahronot and Ynet … organising ridiculous, false, and provocative smears against me and against my wife as part of a media campaign to replace the Likud government … to close the Israel Hayom newspaper, and to return Yediot to its crushing control over the printed news media” wrote Netanyahu.

The theme was echoed in today’s Israel Hayom itself, which devoted four pages to attacking Yediot and its publisher Mr Mozes.

While Mozes has not responded, a Yediot journalist told Reshet Bet radio, “Yediot Ahronot is a newspaper that existed before Netanyahu was born, and the newspaper will continue to exist after him, I hope. I don’t understand his style or tone, and I don’t understand why he has to engage in paranoia … Why does he care if a commercial war is going on and involving a newspaper that he likes or doesn’t like?”

In other election news, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman launched his campaign to be the next government’s Defence Minister by slamming the incumbent Moshe Yaalon. Mr Liberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is predicted between seven and four seats in recent opinion polls, said of Mr Yaalon, “He was an excellent soldier but as a Defence Minister people don’t take him seriously – not our Arab neighbours, not Hamas, not Hezbollah, and not even the Americans”. A Likud campaign event last night addressed by Mr Netanyahu targeted Russian-speakers, Mr Liberman’s main support base.

The left-wing Meretz party announced its economic plan yesterday. The platform, called “Bringing Back the Welfare State”, promised increased welfare benefits such as a statutory right to housing, a lengthened school-day and a large house-building programme in underdeveloped urban centres. The plan is estimated to cost 26.5 billion shekels(£4.5 billion) and would be funded by corporation tax increases and cuts to settlement subsidies.